Revenge is a dish best served re-heated, the sequel to the megahit Malayalam movie Drishyam suggests.
After orchestrating the perfect crime at the end of the first film, affable cable television operator and fierce family man Georgekutty faces the music in Drishyam 2. A previously undiscovered eyewitness and new evidence threaten Georgekutty’s sangfroid and raise the temperature at his household.
Unable to let sleeping dogs lie – or rather, corpses to stay buried – writer-director Jeethu Joseph boldly sets out with his scripting shovel to exhume the elements that propelled the first film to blockbuster status in 2013. Drishyam borrowed its basic premise from the Japanese bestselling novel The Devotion of Suspect X: it was less about the crime and more about the construction of a watertight alibi.
By the end of Drishyam, Georgekutty (Mohanlal) had successfully protected his wife Rani (Meena) and daughters Anju (Ansiba) and Anu (Esther Anil) from a murder rap. Georgekutty interred the body in a place nobody would think to look – a police station still being constructed.
The crime was a righteous one. The murder victim Varun, the son of the state’s Inspector General of Police, was an entitled pervert, which allowed the god-fearing Georgekutty to appear a saint.
In the sequel, Varun’s parents (Asha Sarath and Siddique) are still outraged that Georgekutty has gone unpunished. A bunch of gossipy autorickshaw drivers is more interested in Georgekutty’s guilt than plying their trade.
The local police is annoyed that Georgekutty is strutting about, wealthier than before and all set to make his mark as a film producer. New Inspector General of Police Thomas (Murali Gopy) has a point to prove, and comes up with a plan as clever as anything Georgekutty could have conjured up.
The ability of cinema to reveal the truth as well as play tricks with the mind inspired Georgekutty’s great escape in Drishyam. This time too, a love for the movies aids the smart-thinking hero, but the denouement isn’t quite as neat or satisfying.
Drishyam 2 has the same leisurely pace and slow-burning suspense as its predecessor. In the previous film, the crime occurred nearly an hour into the narrative, allowing Joseph to set up his characters and the locale and strew around the clues that later proved useful.
In Drishyam 2 as well, the plot kicks in only after an hour or so of watching older versions of Georgekutty and his family. Six years after having relegated their dirty secret to the earth, Rani, Anju and Anu struggle with memories of the murder. Only Georgekutty seems unaffected, overconfident even, enabling the police to put their plan into action.
Clocking in at a couch-warming 153 minutes, the Amazon Prime original film is divided into the re-opening of the case file and Georgekutty’s latest act of prestidigitation. Among the ideas that are flirted with are the quest for redemption and the afterlife of notorious criminals. The eyewitness who upsets Georgekutty’s calm is seeking to absolve himself of his own crime. The slander that follows the family proves that public sympathy is ultimately fickle.
Even as the noose tightens around Georgekutty’s neck, Joseph abandons the attempt to expand the original’s examination of the true nature of justice and moves smoothly into thriller mode. The twists are delivered expertly, if not quite as convincingly.
A tired air clings to Georgekutty as he seemingly heads in the direction of the clinker. Mohanlal, who is indistinguishable from his character, was born to play the part. But Georgekutty’s spirited defence of his wife and daughters doesn’t quite have the same urgency or force any more.
The performances of the rest of the cast, particularly Meena as Rani, are effective even in repeat mode. Murali Gopi has the thankless job of playing the police officer who pits his wits against the redoubtable cable operator.
I fear this is the beginning of something, a character says minutes before the climax. Is that a promise or a threat? In setting out to revisit Drishyam, Joseph makes the first movie’s effectiveness moot. Drishyam didn’t leave any room for unfinished business. As Drishyam 2 grapples with the prospect that Georgekutty’s crime wasn’t quite as perfect as imagined, the movie ambles along on fond memories and a taste for the familiar.